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Pust

Lengt etter lys (2020)

5.0

December 25, 2020

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 5.0
Innovation / Creativity 5.0
Soloists 5.0
Sound / Production 4.3
Repeat Listenability 5.0
Tracks
1 I den kalde vinter 5.0
2 Tenn lys 5.0
3 Nu vandrer fra hver en verdens krok 5.0
4 Dessember 4.7
5 Et lys imot mørketida 5.0
6 Lengt etter lys 5.0
7 Hjertebarn 5.0
8 Jolekvelden 4.7
9 Jolevise 4.7
10 Ei rosa e utsprunge 5.0
11 I denne søte juletid 4.7
12 Blåtona dal og fjell 5.0
13 Julekveldsvisa 5.0
14 Pauserommet 5.0
15 Snø 5.0

Recorded 2020
Total time: 52:28, 15 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 I den kalde vinter 5
2 Tenn lys 5
3 Nu vandrer fra hver en verdens krok 5
4 Dessember 5
5 Et lys imot mørketida 5
6 Lengt etter lys 5
7 Hjertebarn 5
8 Jolekvelden 5
9 Jolevise 5
10 Ei rosa e utsprunge 5
11 I denne søte juletid 5
12 Blåtona dal og fjell 5
13 Julekveldsvisa 5
14 Pauserommet 5
15 Snø 5

Lengt etter lys is the holiday album that will force you to sit down and find a bit of peace in this year's odder-than-usual holiday season. It is aggressively ethereal, a phrase that seems odd to type but makes perfect sense if you try to listen to these tunes and do almost anything else. It's beautiful music. Also it will make you take a break.

Pust has been at the top of my personal charts for about a decade now, and the group's previous Christmas album Julero is one of my all-time favorite recordings. At the time, my fellow RARB reviewers raved about its ethereal feel and "way of making you still", to quote Kimberly Raschka Sailor. Lengt etter lys takes that concept to a new level. Where Julero set a calming and centered pace, this new recording has the stilling effect of a blanket of fresh-fallen snow. The pretty kind, that makes you stay home but doesn't cut out the power. Perfect to sit, listen, and dream.

The songs here are a well-chosen mix of contemporary and traditional. Centuries-old tunes mix with more commerical holiday fare and a few compositions from the group itself. Dessember to me has a touch of the Charlie Brown Christmas vibe, while I den kalde vinter's setting of In the Bleak Midwinter seems almost too sweet. Hjertebarn is a translation of Alec Wilder's A Child Is Born, the instrumental turned Christmas jazz crooner standard.

I prefer the wilder tunes, myself. Elisabeth Anvik brings a windswept loveliness to Et lys imot mørketida, a song she composed that she sings beautifully over a background of gorgeous drones. The text is credited to a poet from the Norway's far north, where the sun disappears in the winter and all the light has to come from within. We are also treated to Ei rosa e utsprunge, a setting of the familiar Praetorius rose carol in northern dialect courtesy of Camilla Susann Haug.

Håvard Gravdal's interpretation of Jolekvelden brings me particular delight. His free-flowing solo intro segues into a more danceable group rendition of this delightful Norwegian folk tune. The intro is a virtuoso exploration, where artistic license and exquisite ornamentation lay the tune out in all its glory, before it settles down in to a 3/4 pols (Norway's version of the polska/mazurka dance beat).

Nu vandrer fra hver en verdens krok opens with an intro that sounds lifted from a Middle Earth movie, before easing into a truly lovely solo from bass Mads Iversen. The inner verses have moments of affecting simplicity before the song closes with a bit more wordless moodmaking. I love every bit of it.

This album is Christmassy without being overly religious, focusing on the changing seasons and winter pilgrimage aspects of the familar Christian story rather than the birth of a savior. As a result, it comes across as secular enough to appeal to a wide range of audiences, not only those who celebrate alongside the church. Also it's lovely. If you have the time, this listen is worth it.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 I den kalde vinter 5
2 Tenn lys 5
3 Nu vandrer fra hver en verdens krok 5
4 Dessember 5
5 Et lys imot mørketida 5
6 Lengt etter lys 5
7 Hjertebarn 5
8 Jolekvelden 5
9 Jolevise 5
10 Ei rosa e utsprunge 5
11 I denne søte juletid 5
12 Blåtona dal og fjell 5
13 Julekveldsvisa 5
14 Pauserommet 5
15 Snø 5

Still no garish jingle bells here: Pust's latest Christmas release is a cozy cocoa by the fire album. And, wildly creative for what Pust brings to this nordic fire: simply six voices, nothing more.

But of course, it's really a lot more, because Pust carefully selects its music from across sacred and secular localized music literature, including a few original pieces to anchor its message and demonstrate the group's craft. And all without percussion: rhythms are deliberately but effortlessly sculpted by intentional accents, bounces, smooth sweeps, and gradual tempo shifts. This is gentle work, peaceful work, but meticulously considered work that was tweaked to perfection long before recording.

The ladies of this sextet remain the jewel in Pust's crown, and to feature them in clustered harmony in the opening measures of the recording, alone and on full display, was definitely the right choice. All style, and substance, too, for I den kalde vinter. Anne Hilde Grøv's penned piece, Dessember, which she also solos on, is masterful in its delivery and playful chorus. Her voice toes the line of the boundaries of beautiful; hers is a voice that could never be convincingly covered by other artists. She is her own artist.

This release is a celebration of Christmas, with traditions and reflections aplenty, but this music also takes an introspective look at the Norwegian landscape. I feel it in Lengt etter lys, offered by group member and singer-songwriter Camilla Susann Haug. In the liners, we read that Haug "describes her memories about waiting for the sun that will come back in January". Let that sink in, Americans; consider how that would change your relationships, with others, and with yourself. We are also in the thick of the Norwegian winter with Snø, a song that features unique vocalizations to capture the eeriness of the land.

At points during my listens, I wrote: "I feel sad but I don't know why." This is how effective Pust is at conveying nuanced emotions; it holds you, sits with you. My only suggestion, which I feel silly about offering, is considering a touch less reverb. The voices are warmly thick enough.

Another required listening release, Lengt etter lys ("Longing for Light") is a welcome return from Norway's finest.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 I den kalde vinter 5
2 Tenn lys 5
3 Nu vandrer fra hver en verdens krok 5
4 Dessember 4
5 Et lys imot mørketida 5
6 Lengt etter lys 5
7 Hjertebarn 5
8 Jolekvelden 4
9 Jolevise 4
10 Ei rosa e utsprunge 5
11 I denne søte juletid 4
12 Blåtona dal og fjell 5
13 Julekveldsvisa 5
14 Pauserommet 5
15 Snø 5

One of the most profound statements I've ever heard regarding music is "you don't have to enjoy every genre of music, but you have to respect the ability". This newest holiday release from Norwegian sextet Pust is incredibly unique in its sound and presentation. Admittedly, the vast majority of a cappella music I listen to is large contemporary groups. This album in no way falls under that description. However, I find myself falling in love with this album more and more with every listen. Lengt etter lys is a breathtaking display of musicality that will make you want to stop and listen regardless of you musical tastes.

The sound palette of Pust is incredibly unique. The group fluctuates between classical choral polyphony and modern solo-driven performance, even within a single piece. The opening track I den kalde vinter shows this seamless transition. Based on the classic Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter, this piece offers up that balance for the listener that really showcases the versatility of the group. Soloist Anne Hilde Grøv fits perfectly among the group, acting as a focal point when required, but also fitting perfectly in the more choral moments. The recording sounds very simple, much like sitting in a room hearing the group sing rather than listening to a group that was pitch corrected and edited to be perfect. These singers are showcasing themselves, and what they're showcases is an upper echelon of musicianship.

Et lys imot mørketida offers up the continuing creativity of the group. Based on the poem by Norwegian poet Trygve Hoff, this piece masterfully encapsulates the story of a northern town trapped in a December without sunlight. That may be a very unique and hard emotion to convey to those who can't understand the language, but Pust is able to do it. This piece uses drones sliding between differing pitches and some eerie overtones to create an off-putting yet incredibly effective feeling of isolation. This feeling is only magnified by the use of other vocal lines to act as an echo rather than a harmony. I have never heard anything quite like this. I've had chills from listening to music before, but never a feeling of bone-chilling darkness but also a quiet sense of beauty. Pust has taken this poem and brought it to life in a way that is truly unique.

There are even pieces throughout this album that are purely products of group members. Dessember is an original penned by Anne Hilde Grøv, and Pauserommet and the titular Lengt etter lys were penned by Camilla Susann Haug. It's interesting listening to all three of these pieces because of what they offer. The sound seems to approach more towards modern stylings and chords. However, even with the differences in style, they still sound phenomenal. The tuning is still flawless, the soloists are still engaging, and the group identity is still fully apparent. It's remarkable to see a group that has different facets to its sound while still maintaining an overall identity. Whatever song the group sings, you know Pust is still going to perform it well and without compromising the personality of the group that has already been established.

When all is said and done, this may not be the holiday album you expect, but it's one you should check out. There is an overall feeling of tranquility and wonder that surrounds Lengt etter lys. This album is timeless and unique, and I have a feeling you could listen to it on a rainy summer afternoon and still find a calm serenity within these tracks. In the meantime, find a window on a cold snowy evening, listen to this album, and just be at peace for a little while.


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Ordering Information

Lengt etter lys streams on Tidal and Spotify.

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